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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The Battalion May 4, 2024

Analysis: Questions shift from defense to quarterback

Kyler+Murray+took+his+first+snap+in+an+A%26amp%3BM+uniform+against+Arizona+State.%26%23160%3B
By: Bryan Johnson

Kyler Murray took his first snap in an A&M uniform against Arizona State. 

Following an offseason full of questions and uncertainty regarding the Texas A&M defense, the Aggies had a national platform to establish a new and improved ‘Wrecking Crew.’ 

Sure, Saturday night’s 38-17 win over then No. 15 Arizona State showed promising aspects, but among the positive was a slew of struggles. Since joining the SEC, the Aggie offense has bailed out the defense game after game. However, that dynamic changed Saturday night. The offense, a staple of the Aggies since Kevin Sumlin arrived, was where A&M struggled the most.

But first, let’s talk about that defense — the aspect that has plagued the Sumlin era. John Chavis’ impact was felt immediately on Saturday night. An A&M defense, which surrendered 5.9 yards per play last year, held an explosive ASU offense to just 3.5 yards per play. The pass rush was seemingly unstoppable, the secondary is vastly improved and the tackling was the best Aggie fans have seen in recent memory. 

They flew to the football, and in return, they shut down Sun Devil star quarterback Mike Bercovici and star receiver D.J. Foster. With the exception of a few plays, the defense was just about perfect. The biggest part of that effort was the pass rush tandem of Daeshon Hall and Myles Garrett.

The defensive end duo combined for six sacks and terrorized the ASU backfield all night, even when being blatantly held. When two defensive ends are almost a yard past the line of scrimmage before the snap gets to the quarterback, that is a scary, scary thing for an offensive backfield. On Saturday, Hall and Garrett made a statement they just might be the best pass rushing duo in all of college football. 

Also shining on defense were defensive backs Donovan Wilson and Justin Evans. Wilson garnered two sacks, and three total tackles as he disrupted the Sun Devil backfield on numerous occasions. Evans posted five tackles, and his hits left Arizona State players rattled for a majority of the game with multiple dropped passes. For an Aggie secondary that has struggled mightily for the last few season, Evans and Wilson are a breath of fresh air Aggie fans have waited a long time to see. 

The other bright spot was the freshman Christian Kirk. For a debut, Kirk could not have asked for more in his first college game. He returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown and also had an electric 66-yard touchdown reception that really sealed the win for A&M. His speed and field vision were remarkable for a guy who was playing high school football just one year ago. If A&M gets the ball in his hands in space, the outcome will likely be a touchdown. Look out for him this year. 

On the flip side, the thing that has been a constant for A&M since joining the SEC has been the offensive line. On Saturday though, it was possibly the biggest question mark. They had issues in pass protection — allowing Kyle Allen to be sacked three times — and they were pressured in the backfield all game. It was especially evident in the rushing attack. The Sun Devils held A&M to just 3.8 yards per carry, and really with the exception of Kyler Murray, shut down the A&M rushing attack for a good portion of the game. Overall, the interior line looked like a complete mess, and it will be what Sumlin addresses the most this coming week. 

Luckily for A&M, there is time to fix the problems before the thick of the SEC gauntlet comes up in their schedule. They have Ball State and Nevada at home to fix the woes from week one. Then, they take on what could very well be an undefeated Arkansas team in Arlington come September 26. 

It will be a big next two weeks for A&M. However, from what the team showed on Saturday night, there are pieces in place on this team that could make 2015 a year to remember in Aggie football history. Stay tuned. 

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  • Garrett recorded two sacks and had 2.5 TFLs against the Sun Devils. 

    By: Bryan Johnson
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